WCB #116: The (very late) Great Round-up Adventure!
I’ve learned my lesson. Never say “hey, let’s test that new hard drive” in the middle of a project. Days later, and after much agony over ribbon cables and cooling fans, I’m back online. Fortunately, the cats did not interfere with the computer rebuilding process (this time.) Also fortunately, I was able to get quite a bit of writing done by hand, including a large portion of the following post, which I hope will cheer up those of us who are having a rough week.
So now, fellow cat bloggers, it is (at long last) time for the VERY LATE (it’s about freakin’ time) Weekend Cat Blogging #116 Round-up.
Or, as I prefer to call it:
AROUND THE WORLD IN 30 CATS:
An Epic Adventure of Airships and Sausages!
“Are we there yet?” Ahriman asked, peering over the rim of the catamaran’s starboard hull.
“That depends entirely on where ‘there’ is,” said Port. She was, of course, ensconced in the port hull, pillows to bow and stern and a brimming bowl of crunchies directly in front of her little gray nose.
The vessel, the Gato Enojado, named for the previous feline of the household, sailed on a swift wind over mountains and out to the sea, where its bright ballast-ropes of rainbow yarn skirted over sunlit waves and startled fishermen and dolphins alike. The two cats had jumped aboard that sunny August morning without the slightest notion of where they were going or even how the vessel was powered.
“One thing I can observe,” said Port, staring at the voluminous, striped mass above them. “Do what you like in your own hull, but–” and here she stopped to glare at Ahri’s carelessly draped limbs, “do not, I repeat, do NOT stretch your claws upward.”
Ahri raised his eyes and frowned. “Are we there yet,” he asked again.
A moment later, they touched down.
“This doesn’t feel like August,” Port noted. “And that,” she said, nodding at the shivering ball of fur in front of them, “doesn’t look like a happy cat.”
Indeed it wasn’t. It was a cat who’d had a bath, poor Puddy, and Port knew all too well what a miserable experience that was! She backed away quickly for fear Puddy’s owner might still have water running in the tub.
“Come with us,” Ahri said. “We travel over water, not in it.”
“Will it be a quick trip?” Puddy asked.
“Blink of an eye,” said Ahri. “And the wind should dry that fur quite well.”
“Hah,” Puddy exclaimed and jumped aboard. “So long as I’m back in time to exact my revenge!” She patted her full tummy and smiled an exceedingly devious smile.
Back into the air they went, Puddy riding on the port side to help balance the two hulls, though Ahriman was utterly bewildered at the notion: how could he – a model of grace and beauty – weigh the same as two whole cats! Surely it couldn’t be so. He eyed the rigging and ballast-ropes with deep suspicion.
They sailed northwest, over desert and rock, then water and a thousand tiny islands, until not too far from the equator (they imagined), the strange little craft snagged itself on the upper branches of a great rainforest tree. The three kittens struggled to untangle the ballast-ropes from the vines that hid the ground below, but before they could free the Gato Enojado and set sail again, a fierce face poked through the canopy and snarled.
“Wild cat!” Ahri exclaimed, and dove as far into the starboard hull as he could without becoming one with the decking. Port merely rolled her eyes and continued with the work.
“I’d climb aboard,” the wild cat said with an ominous purr, “but I’m not sure you’d last long. Besides, my tree is far too comfortable.” His purr turned into a roar, and then a smile, and then he disappeared beneath the branches.
“Are we aloft yet?” Ahri asked with a whimper.
A bit further north they sailed and over land again, and this time they heard a great Mrrreeooooww before seeing a thing.
“Now that’s a hungry cat,” Puddy said as the craft neared ground. “Or a wet cat. I should know.”
“I am Kamikaze Kamakiri Kitty,” the cat said. “And this is my domain!”
“Who is he speaking to?” Ahri whispered. He was not the most observant of cats.
“That,” said Port.
“Or that.” She pointed to a first and then a second samagee, both facing off against the largest black cat she had ever seen. “Good lord,” she said, not able to help herself. “You are vast!”
“Hop in!” Ahri exclaimed. “The bugs will be there when you get back.”
The huge cat eyed the catamaran’s starboard hull suspiciously, then leapt inside.
“Wait!” Port and Puddy both cried, but it was too late. The port hull lurched upward, and the Gato Enojado sailed into the air at a most alarming angle.
With one hull skirting the water and the other nearly wedged into the underbelly of the ship’s airbag above, they sailed back across the Atlantic at a fierce clip. Port was astonished the vessel could steer at all and thought perhaps they were on course for home, but then, just before dawn, they hit a massive fog bank and found themselves adrift in a sea of gray.
“Can you see the ocean?” she called down to Ahri.
He shook his head. “No. Can you see the sky?”
“Not a bit,” said Port. “But I can hear something!”
The four cats held their breath in the salty morning air. Ahriman’s ears twitched. A strange, ethereal music floated toward them from somewhere up ahead.
“What is that?” Kamikaze asked.
“Music of the spheres,” whispered a tranquil voice from below, and the fog parted to reveal a sleek black cat, basking in the light of a stained-glass window. “Or music of planets, and fish, and, of course, cats.”
“Your human makes this music?” Port asked.
Luna, the sleek cat, nodded. The colors of fire and flowers danced across her fur.
“Can we take it with us?” Ahri asked.
“I don’t think my human will fit in your ship,” Luna replied, “but I do have this!” She held up a small blue box covered in knobs and dials.
“Hop in!” the other cats cried.
Luna sized up the catamaran’s two hulls and, after careful consideration, stepped into the one that contained Port and Puddy. Port breathed a sigh of relief. Ahri frowned and let out a rather self-pitying mew.
Sailing north, they found themselves downriver from their own home and hovering a house in the tiniest town they’d ever seen. A kitten sat at the doorstep, and every so often raised his paws to touch the door’s glass. “Mew,” he said, staring inside. “Mew, mew.”
“What is it?” Luna asked.
The kitty turned, sadness etched across his little bowtie face. “She taunts me,” he said. “She taunts me with her camera and with those luxurious smells of baking bread!”
“Bread?” Ahri and Kamikaze both stretched their necks out of the starboard hull and sniffed the air with great expectation.
The kitten shook his head. “We are prevented by glass,” he said. “May I ride with you?”
“Of course,” said Port, “We’ve room on this side.”
Still further north, they happened upon two cats cozily ensconced in a cupboard, surrounded by luxurious linens.
“Oh!” cried Mr. ‘ssouri, the newest member of the crew, “those would make splendid sails!”
Sergei and Sasha glanced at one another from their separate shelves. “Will our humans notice their absence?” Sergei asked.
“Only if it’s laundry day,” Sasha replied.
And with that keen assessment, the cats quickly grabbed the largest and most colorful of the sheets and tied them to the netting that held the Gato Enojado’s twin hulls to the great airbag above. The ship lifted into the air, now more glorious than ever. Golden and red flowered fabric flapped in the breeze, Luna’s music reverberated off the gleaming buildings of the Emerald City, and the crew of eight sailed east into the morning sun.
“Ah, now this is the life,” Port said at the bow of her hull, the wind against her fur. The others nodded and all was, for a brief moment, completely serene. Then Ahriman jumped up onto his bow (nearly capsizing the entire starboard side) and thrust a quivering paw toward the ground.
“Big Orange Kitty!” he cried, and of course everyone had to look. This time, the vessel did tip over, and if not for the resourcefulness of the newly-found Spike, who grabbed a ballast-rope with each paw and secured them all to a hitching post, they would have lost their ride for good.
“How in the name of Bast did you think to do that?” Sergei and Sasha cried in unison.
Spike lifted his mottled pink nose to the sky, and with an inordinate sense of pride he declared “Orange cats rule!”
“We do?” Ahri asked.
“Of course we do,” Spike said, “We have catitude. We have our own Flickr group. We are indeed larger than life.”
Port attempted to suppress a loud snort.
Ahriman jumped back onto the bow of the starboard hull (which creaked perilously under his weight) and let out a hearty meow. “I am Ahrimus Maximus,” he declared. “I am-”
“Please do not say ‘King of the world’” Port interrupted.
Ahri hesitated for a moment – just long enough for it to be painfully obvious to the other cats that this was exactly what he had intended to say – then he jumped down and asked rather sheepishly, “Well? Where to next?”
“South over mountains,” Spike replied. He untied the ballast-ropes and leapt aboard, gesturing at the others to follow.
Somewhere just beyond a snow-capped ridge, they drifted west again and touched down in what appeared to be a quiet, tree-filled yard. For a moment, Port hoped they might be allowed a respite from the adventure, but those hopes were dashed as quickly as they came. A large, fluffy gray cat appeared out of nowhere and accosted the ship.
“Take me with you,” the cat said. She glanced from side to side, then lowered her voice. “Take me with you now. There are squirrels everywhere.”
“I take it you are not happy about the squirrels?” Port asked.
Upsie narrowed her eyes. “Do I look happy about the squirrels?”
“Right. Well then?”
“Make room!” Port called out.
Upsie jumped inside. “By the way,” she asked, “do you have any food?”
A short distance away they found three cats gathered around a small collection of candles and cat images.
“Oooh, flickering light!” Ahri said.
Upsie shushed him. “They are thinking good thoughts for a lost cat,” she whispered. “It is hard to lose a cat. I know.”
On the quietest of cat feet, the ten crew members of the Gato Enojado stepped down from their craft and gathered around Skeezix, Mao, and Rocky. They sat still for a time that felt just exactly right, and then, without making a sound, slipped back into their places and sailed away.
“Sometimes kitties come back,” Port whispered. “And sometimes, they move on and find a home in the Happy Cat Hunting Ground.”
This time they traveled east over rolling hills and lazy, winding rivers. Two humans stood at a crossroads, oblivious to the approaching craft.
“What’s in their hands?” Sasha asked.
Port retrieved a spyglass from under a half-shredded cushion. “It’s a tiny, tiny kitten,” she said. “No bigger than a tea cup.”
“Tiny kitten!” excited voices cried. “Take it with us!”
The cats all glanced at one another in anticipation. Then Luna spoke. “I think not,” she said. “This one is so tiny and so very tired. She needs to sleep and find her home.”
After a few grumbles of disappointment, the others agreed. They called out to the ground as they passed overhead. “Safe journey, Tiny Kitten!” “Be well!” And much to everyone’s surprise, the tiny kitten opened its eyes and mewed a tiny mew of thanks in reply.
Now, in the middle of the country and with no heavy weather or trade winds to carry them to a new destination, the Gato Enojado drifted idly under the August sun. Sergei and Sasha concocted new configurations for the ship’s sails, Puddy groomed her freshly washed fur, Luna composed melodies on her electronic box, Port assisted ‘ssouri in his search for his virtual home, and Ahriman, Kamikaze, Upsie, and Spike all discussed Best Meals Ever Eaten.
“I think I see something!” ‘ssouri said, peering through the spyglass.
“Your virtual farm house?” Port asked.
“No. Someone is stalking us. Look!”
Sure enough, as they moved from field to field, a patchwork cat would poke its nose out from between the corn stalks, then quickly duck away, only to reappear moments later.
“Do you suppose she wants a ride?” Port asked.
“It is rather exciting up here,” ‘ssouri agreed. “But I don’t see a good place to land. There just so much… corn.”
Port called down to the kitty. “You! Stalking among the stalks! Would you like a ride?”
The cat looked up, then immediately jumped and caught hold of the tail-end of the nearest ballast-rope. Several crew-cats hoisted her up.
“What were you doing down there amongst all that… corn?” ‘ssouri asked.
Sigyn smiled. “Making mischief,” she said. “It’s what I do best.”
A short while later, Ahri began to sniff the air and fidget with excitement. “I smell roses,” he said. “Have you ever eaten rose petals? They’re quite tasty.”
Port glared at Ahri. “Your human was saving that bouquet, you know.”
“Ahoy! Gingerbread comrade!” Spike was balanced precariously on the Starboard bow meowing to the ground below, where two cats – one quite orange – had poked their heads out from behind a riot of yellow roses.
“Hullo!” the first one called. She swatted a nearby rose with her paw. “Care for snack?”
“Willow,” the second cat scolded, “those roses are for Mom’s anniversary!”
Willow sniffed the air. “Very true, China Cat” she said, “but do we get pasta salad? Or cheese garlic bread? Or Gooey Butter Cake?”
“Gooey Butter Cake,” China Cat echoed with a look of exquisite sadness.
From inside the starboard hull, the echoes continued.
It was as if the world had collapsed and there was nothing left on the menu but stale kibble. The lamentations went on for a full twenty minutes until finally Port, who had finished her entire bowl of crunchies before the Gato Enojado’s first stop, shouted over the din. “There’s no need to caterwaul about lost desserts. For tonight we dine in Vienna!”
The cats let out a mighty cheer, then paused and, one by one, tilted their heads in confusion.
“Um. Why Vienna?” Ahri asked.
Port shrugged. “It was the first place I thought of. Besides, I hear they’ve got great sausages.”
“Sausages,” Willow said. “We’re there!” The two newest companions leapt on board and the craft rose into the sky once again.
Just moments later they touched down, this time directly in front of the most wide-eyed black cat any of them had ever seen.
“Invisible monster now visible!” it cried, and cowered behind a stray couch cushion.
“We’re not a monster, we’re a boat!” the cats declared. “Come aboard!”
“No monsters?” the cat said, still rather uncertain.
The crew checked every nook and cranny, even climbing up into the netting, stray claws precariously close to the airbag above.
“No monsters. Invisible or otherwise,” Port said.
Dippy, the new cat, stepped gingerly into the nearest hull. She looked around, still wide-eyed, then breathed a sigh of relief when she realized she was in pleasant company. As they lifted into the air, she wrinkled her nose. “Do I smell roses?” she asked.
Willow and China Cat quickly tucked their paws behind their backs and stared innocently at the sky.
After a short while, the craft turned north and in an instant, the cats were all blinded by multicolored, glittering objects.
“Ooooo, shiny!” they cried and worked the sails to move closer to the source of wonderment.
When their eyes refocused they saw crystals of all shapes and sizes and a majestic cat perched among them. For a moment, she looked like the queen of cats — so noble, surrounded by jewels — but then a nearby human pointed a camera at her and the illusion was shattered.
“Mom! Not the flashy box again!” Mini cried. She looked up, just as the Gato Enojado sailed overhead, and quickly grabbed hold of the nearest ballast-rope. “Must…escape…flashy…box,” she panted as she climbed into the hull.
Several other cats nodded in agreement as they helped Mini inside. The took no notice when a single crystal tinked to the ground beside her feet.
“Yes, some of our humans really don’t know when to quit with the camera, do they” ‘ssouri said with a heavy sigh.
Sailing south now, the cats began to invent songs to pass the time. Most of them rhymed “wish” with “fish” and contained entire verses about sausages. Eventually the singing grew so raucous that Port was concerned they’d be overheard by dogs and other unpleasant creatures.
“Quiet,” she said, and held up a paw.
The crew closed their mouths but the singing continued.
“That’s not us,” Sigyn said.
Luna nodded in agreement. “The close harmonies and bold yet unexpected key changes indicate a group of kittens who’ve known each other much longer than a single day,” she said.
Sure enough, directly below them sat not one, not two, not even three, but NINE cats, all sharing a rare moment of extraordinary vocal cooperation.
Can you guess?
Don’t dare try it!
To tell Rimbaud from Riot
Yes – nobody knows!
But – quiet!
Look close – it’s the nose!
Ha ha, yes the nose!
The crew of the Gato Enojado burst into spontaneous applause. All nine cats sat up, stared at the sky, and in the blink of an eye, Riot, Rimbaud, Zed, Bukowski, Merlin, Maggie, Jezebel, Nico, and Braum hopped aboard. Much to everyone’s amazement, the remarkable (and quite overloaded) ship lifted into the sky and sailed southward.
Absurdly crowded as it was on board, the seasoned sailors of the crew determined that it would indeed be possible to take on just a few more passengers.
“Though I am long overdue for a dinner break,” Sasha declared after checking the aft rigging.
“Then we sail east,” Port said, “and over the sea.”
But, just as the vessel began its turn, Sergei let out a desperate cry from below his newly-unfurled spinnaker. “Dog! Dead ahead!”
If the Gato Enojado had come equipped with an anchor, all twenty-four cats would have tossed it over the side at once. Instead, they clambered to the sterns of both hulls and scrambled down ballast-ropes, grabbing at branches, fence posts, flowers – anything to stop their inevitable and terrifying progress toward the dog.
The great airship lurched to port, then to starboard, then back to port before coming to a gut-churning halt mere inches from its target, a trail of claw marks in its wake. The dog, quite oblivious to the drama, sat, tongue out, panting happily.
“Dog!” several of the cats cried.
“He’s not so bad once you get to know him,” a new voice said.
“What?” Several of the cats froze and turned their heads in disbelief.
A cat with an astonishingly fluffy tail stepped out from behind the ominous pooch. “Really,” she said. “He’s just, you know… a dog.”
“Well, we’re not taking him with us,” Upsie said. “No squirrels, and absolutely no dogs!”
Dippy poked her head out from under a cushion on the starboard side. “You can come, though,” she said.
Samantha glanced back and forth between dog and ship. She then pointed a paw toward a tree in the distance and flicked her tail to get the dog’s attention. “Maverick!” she said. “Giant stick! Go fetch!”
The dog galumphed away obediently and Samantha jumped on board.
“And now, to sea!” said Port.
Winds carried them swiftly across the Atlantic and to a great city of painted buildings, tree-lined boulevards, and boats everywhere.
“There’s one in that window,” Riot said.
The cats called out. “Hello! Come out and play!”
“We’re not supposed to go outside,” the little black and white cat said, “But if I can ride with you-” She glanced around nervously. “Come close, leave quick and don’t tell anyone you were here.”
They steered the craft so the port hull just touched the edge of the window sill. The cat jumped inside. “A secret adventure!’ she said, and clapped her paws together happily.
They traveled south and found themselves in a beautiful land filled with mountains and castles and – quite unexpectedly – flying blue mice.
“There it is again!” Ahri said as the mouse sailed over the bridge between the twin hulls.
“And again!” said Rimbaud.
The fourth time the mouse flew past, several cats lunged at it, shouting “toy!” and “mine!” but everyone missed and the cacophony ended with an abrupt whap from the ground below.
A sleek tabby looked up at them, the blue mouse trapped between his front paws. “Tennis anyone?” Fridolin asked with a sly grin. He tossed the mouse into the air, gave it yet another swat and watched as it flew at the Gato Enojado’s airbag and lodged itself in the upper netting.
“Oh dear,” said Port. “I guess you’ll be traveling with us, then.”
They sailed with their backs to the setting sun, over more mountains and toward a glittering city where smells of rich foods wafted up into the evening air.
“Look,” cried Willow. She pointed at the largest Ferris wheel any of them had ever seen. “We’re in Vienna!”
“I smell Knödel,” said Fridolin.
“I smell Tafelspitz,” said Spike.
“I smell catnip,” said Kamikaze.
It truly would have been impossible for the cats to land the Gato Enojado with any more haste than they did at that moment. In an instant they were out of the twin hulls and knocking expectantly at the window of a small flat in the heart of the city.
Two elegant tabbies greeted them with looks of amazement. After introductions and a brief negotiation they agreed: one catnip plant would stay behind, one would come with, and yes, they would gladly direct the crew toward the best food in town.
Kashim and Othello hopped aboard, secured the catnip, and shouted off a series of directions to crew.
“Turn left here,” Kashim said.
“Now, around the corner,” said Othello, “and there you have it!”
A tiny, brightly-painted food stand stood in the middle of the street. “Würstelstand” its sign declared in letters the color of Willow and China Cat’s roses. Inside, two humans busied themselves with great lengths of sausage and pots of mustard.
The cats breathed the delectable aroma and quivered with excitement.
“Oh dear,” said Upsie, almost desperate with hunger. “They’ll want us to pay for those, won’t they?”
Everyone looked at one another. How could they carry human money with no pockets?
“Wait!” Mini said, “I’ve got this!” She held up the crystal she’d taken with her while escaping her mom’s flashy box. She shrugged. “It kind of got stuck between my claws.”
“It is shiny,” Ahri said. “Everyone loves shiny.”
Port frowned. “But they still might not serve us. We are, after all, cats.”
“Well then,” Othello said, “We’ll have to employ the element of surprise!”
They all huddled as best they could for a quick strategy session.
“Now, we’ve got just one pass at the place before they call for help,” Kashim said, “so we’d best be precise.”
“I’ve got the aft sails,” Sasha said.
“And I’m at the bow,” said Sergei.
“On lookout,” Sigyn announced, holding up the spyglass.
“Distracting them with sonorous music,” Luna said, holding up her blue box.
“Guarding the catnip,” said Puddy.
“Excellent!” Port leapt to the Catamaran’s central frame. “Fridolin, Samantha, ‘ssouri, help steer. Everyone else – man the ropes!”
Without a sound, they inched the craft forward until it hovered just out of sight, just behind the closed back of the Würstelstand.
At Port’s signal, Luna began to play. Beautiful music filled the night air. The chef and his assistant stepped out from behind the stand’s counter, both pulling off their toques and scratching their heads in puzzlement. Further away they stepped, looking around, and then -
“Es geht um die Wurst!” Othello and Kashim cried, and the Gato Enojado dove into position.
With a cat at the bottom of each rope, the mighty ship skimmed over the top of the Würstelstand. Mini dropped her crystal into an empty jar on the counter, and an instant later, the stand’s culinary contents were snatched into the air.
“Halt! Katzen!” the humans cried, but it was too late; the craft had already reached the rooftops. By the time help arrived, all that was left to see were the last few sausage links wobbling like kite tails into the clouds.
“Huzzah,” the cats cried. “Let’s eat!”
“I think,” said Fridolin, “we need an evening’s entertainment to accompany our banquet.” He snatched up the spyglass and scoured the countryside. “There! Perfect! An opera house!”
They settled the catamaran onto a soft hummock, disembarked, and set themselves up with a ship’s sail for a picnic blanket and as much bratwurst, burenwurst, weisswurst, and kasekrainer any cat would ever want.
When the curtain rose on the opera’s scene, the cats all gasped. “There’s cat in the cast,” they whispered. “Look! A cat!”
The opera had everything an opera should have: romance, adventure, intrigue, and lots and lots of scary bits. Dippy hid under the picnic blanket when the ghosts came out, and all the cats cheered when Blacky, the cat on stage, took his final bow.
“Bravissimo,” they cried. “Ausgezeichnet!”
Afterward, the cats all lounged on the blanket, utterly full and happy, gazing at the stars above.
“I suppose we should be getting home soon,” Puddy said.
“Our humans might be worried,” said Spike.
They rose and carefully began to pack their things.
“But, oh, the stories we have to tell when we get back!” Upsie declared. “Do you think they’ll believe us?”
The cats all looked at one another and smiled.
Not a bit, they all agreed, not a bit.